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After reading OutdoorPros.com’s review of the Coldsteel Kukri Machete, I knew I had to write about its larger, antiquated and distinctively more macho Italian cousin, the Gladius Machete.
The 97GMS Gladius Machete is Cold Steel’s version of the iconic Roman short sword. Historically, the gladius was meant to be used in conjunction with a scutum (a large rectangular shield) for fighting in formation. It had its uses as a chopping and thrusting weapon, and for its day was a well-designed and reliable weapon made from sturdy materials.
But how does it fare as a tool for clearing foliage?
One look at the picture above and you might think to yourself that using this to clear brush is about logical as driving an Abrams tank into the woods in search of whitetail.
I thought the same when I took this behemoth out for the first time and then I learned a valuable lesson: why bring just a machete when you can bring more machete?
The blade is crafted from 1055 Carbon Steel, which in my opinion is among the best steel available for a machete. It provides enough toughness for the thin blade to endure repeated uses against hard materials and also holds a decent edge. The Gladius will not be something that you will have to sharpen after every trip through the woods. As a bonus, the blade retains a certain degree of flexibility.
Unique among machetes, the gladius is double edged. This is especially useful in the field as you would have twice the cutting edge readily available. Any double edged blade also naturally has a longer lifespan due to its design, and is more susceptible to user error. Take care in how you use the gladius machete and keep in mind that it probably shouldn’t be used in batonning through wood.
The tip is an extended spearpoint, longer than it would be on a traditional gladius. It is also the sharpest part of the machete, although it’s not advisable to use the tip against harder surfaces. While the Cold Steel Gladius has impressive piercing power, the thin blade has a weak point that will bend if you misuse it.
After some sharpening, it can slice and dice with the best of them. The Gladius design doesn’t have as much inherent cutting ability as a curved machete due to its straight blade, but it does have a lot more power. The Gladius has quite a meaty thum as you slice it through the air. Anything it doesn’t cut it crushes.
As for durability, I put it through a few rough tests and it came out as solid as a rock. This machete makes cutting watermelon a special occasion now at my house.
No worries here, the Cold Steel Gladius is full tang. The polypropylene handle is simple and solid. It literally feels like it could’ve survived since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. What you won’t get in elegance you will get in function: the handle is grippy in wet conditions, ergonomic and terrifically balanced. For extra control, you can cup your supporting hand around the pommel of the machete. Best of all, its comfortable design reduces the chances of hand fatigue after long use.
The Cor-Ex sheath is impressively durable and easy to clean. Like the machete, it is a simple and low maintenance tool.
For some outdoorsmen, the gladius machete is a little too heavy and bulky to carry into the jungle. Although I find that it sits comfortably at my hip, it does oftentimes feel like a full sword than a tool. The machete’s heavier bulk also requires stronger swings compared to the lighter and more familiar Latin machetes. However for the history lover or adventurous, it is a neat and well-designed throwback.
Another benefit is this item being listed under machete status, which is pretty legal everywhere for open carry in the United States. Try carrying a longsword around and you might find yourself having a not-so-friendly chat with your local law enforcement.
It’s forty bucks. With shipping and a Cor-Ex sheath. I’ve seen throw pillows that cost more.
Cold Steel has done an admirable job of redesigning the gladius in a machete format, thinning the blade and replacing the standard wood construction handle with modern polypropylene. Odds are if you’re carrying a machete, you want something that would suit a variety of roles. I’ve found that the Gladius performs all of them admirably, especially for something I had assumed was a novelty. It does have a few things that make it superior to more familiar machetes: power, length, and its extreme tip. However, the same things may also double as weaknesses.
- Blade Length: 19″
- Overall Length: 26 7/8″
- Steel: 1055 Carbon Steel w/ Black Baked on Anti Rust Matte Finish
- Weight: 18 oz (approx.)
- Blade Thickness: 2.8 mm
- Handle: 7 7/8″ Long. Polypropylene
- Sheath: Cor-Ex
Images by Daniel Xu